Senators Statement - no real plan for dementia

I rise today to speak once again about the Abbott Government’s blatant disregard for older Australians and the fact that there is no apparent plan to deal with Dementia, which is now the second leading cause of death in Australia.

The test for the Prime Minister’s second Federal Budget was to plan for the future, but a coherent long-term vision for Australia’s ageing population is nowhere to be seen.

Tony Abbott is a notorious faux-fixer whose poor record in dementia care funding and planning continues to be reiterated.

The wool hasn’t been pulled over our eyes and those living with dementia, their families, friends and carers are starting to realise that the Abbott Government and his Ministers have nothing positive to offer them.

All we are seeing are nasty surprises in store for vulnerable Australians.

The lack of leadership and vision demonstrated by the minister responsible—the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield during Budget Estimates was astounding.

Senator Fifield likes to talk about his support for dementia, but his actions do not follow suit and the insults to those with dementia just keep coming:

  • Last year he left the sector shocked and reeling when he abandoned those with severe behaviours living in residential care by abolishing the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement,
  • Then he introduced his experimental, untested Severe Behaviour Response Teams, better known as “Flying Squads”- which are still grounded, with no flight path.
  • Adding insult to this experimental initiative, tenderers for the “flying squads” were asked to come up with a model for how they might work.
  • This year he has overseen a nasty $20 million cut to dementia initiatives hidden in the fine print of the Budget.
  • And now, the Senator plans to abandon over 25,000 Australians living with younger onset dementia- some only in their 30s and 40s- by discontinuing funding for the life changing program they rely on, the Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker Program.

There are currently 630 people in Tasmania living with younger onset dementia who face going into residential care when the Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker program is discontinued and rolled into the NDIS in July 2016.

This Government forgets there is a human face behind this discontinued program and I can tell you from experience that residential care is not the answer for younger onset dementia.

It would be a failure of the system for residential aged care to be the only answer. In most cases residential care is completely inappropriate for the needs of people with younger onset dementia.

The Government needs to work harder to find responsive and specialised solutions.

It is clear that the Abbott Government has abandoned vulnerable Australians living with dementia.

The string of heartless cuts sends an unmistakable message to every person in Australia – to never trust this Government again.

It is very disappointing and disheartening to see the Abbott Government continuously take an axe to the heavy lifting previously done by Labor to support our aged population.

The Abbott Government is out of touch with the most vulnerable Australians because ‘fairness’ is not something intrinsically imbedded in their values. They don’t value older people.

I have said this before, and will say it again- I just don’t understand why the Abbott Government doesn’t care about older people.

Older and vulnerable Australians do not need further cuts and uncertainty when it comes to their care, especially at a time when the aged care system is undergoing significant changes.

The Abbott Government hasn’t been able to demonstrate that it can be trusted to manage reform or change, because they are not across the detail and they keep dropping the ball.

If the Abbott Government continues on this path Australia will lose the reputation of being a world leader in dementia awareness and risk reduction.

This leads me to yet another nasty surprise for people living with dementia as Tony Abbott discards the world’s first dementia risk reduction program, Your Brain Matters.

This is a program which saw Australia declared a world leader and pioneer in creating awareness and public risk reduction programs.

Tony Abbott is the reason Australia’s aged care sector is not world-class.

Dementia is a deeply personal issue and those living with dementia and their families deserve an adequately funded and strategic approach that responds to the complexity of dementia care.

There are already more than 342,800 Australians living with dementia, a figure which is expected to triple by 2050.

I’m not sure that Tony Abbott and his Ministers understand that as our ageing population increases, dementia will increase as well. It concerns me that many older people living with dementia are going to miss out on care they desperately need.

Dementia is not going away Mr Abbott, and we are all still waiting to see how you plan to make aged and dementia care easier to access, fairer and more sustainable into the future?

We are all still waiting for dementia to be put at the forefront of Government thinking and to start being treating as a national health priority.

The public mood towards ageing is shifting and the Government must keep pace, listen up and learn.

The Government is ignoring the opportunities that ageing presents

Labor did the heavy lifting with the Living Longer Living Better campaign which surrounds the notion that ageing should not be something that separates you from society.

It seems that the Government has underestimated the level of leadership required to oversee the roll out of a significant reform such as Living Longer Living Better.

Older Australians need certainty and the aged care services sector needs stability. We would all like to know what the Government is doing to make this happen.

What does it say about our society if we keep cutting support from our most vulnerable people?

Labor understands that older Australians and those living with dementia deserve certainty.

They most certainly do not deserve to be treated like a burden.

Dementia will be one of the biggest challenges of this century.

It will also be one of greatest opportunities of the century.

Labor will always stand up for fairness and vulnerable Australians.

Only Labor will remain committed to listening, learning and working with the aged care sector to grasp the opportunities and face the issues that arise.